Survey finds physicians need more training, experience with transgender patients

While education and training on transgender care has become more common in recent years, physicians still may not be competent or comfortable with discussing gender identity and providing transgender care, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by researcher Michael Irwig, MD, associate professor of medicine at Washington, D.C.-based George Washington University School of Medicine and director of the Andrology Center at the GW Medical Faculty Associates, tapped 125 endocrinologists, who often provide transgender patients with hormone therapy.

"With more transgender patients in the healthcare system, my findings identified that more research and more training is necessary to provide much needed, culturally competent care to transgender patients," Dr. Irwig said in a statement. "The transgender community represents one of the most underserved and marginalized populations in healthcare. It is therefore up to the physician population to become more familiar with their needs and train the next generation to be culturally competent and prepared to treat this growing community."

In his survey, Dr. Irwig found just one in five physicians were very comfortable discussing gender identity and sexual orientation with patients. Forty-one percent said they were somewhat or very competent in providing transgender care.

This lack of comfort and competence may be due to lack of experience with transgender patients — While 63 percent of respondents were open to treating transgender patients, most indicated they were not currently treating any transgender patients.

It could also be due to lack of education. Dr. Irwig found half of the respondents had read the Endocrine Society's clinical practice guidelines for transgender care, and the majority of those who had were under age 40.

"Progress has been made, but there is still more work to be done," said Dr. Irwig. "More exposure to transgender patients during residency and more research on interventions to overcome discomfort in discussing sexuality and gender are needed."


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